Susan J Tweit Blog Feed

Walk in Love

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Sunday night, after the latest mass shooting at a small Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, I went to Evensong at Christ Episcopal, the church I attend.

I don't think of myself as a "churchy" person; in the tradition of Quakers, I live my spiritual beliefs in my everyday life. But there's no Quaker Meeting in Cody, and Christ Episcopal is nearby. It offers great music, plus inspiring and thoughtful sermons by the Rector, Rev. Mary Caucutt; also, I have good friends are among the eight-o-clockers, the attendees of the early service. All of which equals community for me.

Evensong is a sung worship service that grew out of the Catholic tradition of vespers, evening prayers. I first heard it in Cambridge, England, when for two college terms, I attended lectures, worked with the Conservation Corps, and once a week took in Evensong at Kings College Chapel with its soaring Gothic architecture and famed choir. 

The beauty of any kind of spiritual liturgy sung, chanted, and set to music transcends anything I can write. Perhaps that is due to music's power to move us beyond words, and into the realm of awe unfettered by our analyzing, critical left brains. (Listen to the voices of Kings College Choir sing Evensong here, to see what I mean.)

The news of the shooting in Texas came on the heels of another spate of deaths among my close friends, two expected but still leaving huge holes, another totally out of the blue--a friend with two kids in high school who died of sudden heart failure. My own heart was pretty sore when I walked across the church parking lot in the snow on Sunday evening and slipped inside to find a seat.

And then the music began, first just the organ, soaring notes that filled the church the way good music can, twining around each of us, as if drawing us closer and wrapping us in its warmth and richness. And then the choir, their voices adding to the ribbons of sound.

Then quiet, and all of us chanting a prayer, before the organ took over again, and the choir coming in, voices mixing and melding. Then silence, another chant, and the bell choir, ringing out a gorgeous round, each note holding and then fading, the whole a sonic tapestry. 

The service continued on, music alternating with chanting, and some spoken word. I felt my heart swell with the notes and crack open. I felt the music rush in to soothe the pain. At the end of the hour, it was just the organ again, swelling and then receding, the echoes hanging in the air with the most gossamer of shimmers. 

The choir at Westminster Abbey singing evensong. (Photo from the Westminster Abbey website.)

Sated and uplifted by that spiritual hour in the company of friends, I walked back home in the darkness and snow to my cozy house, feeling more at peace with the world. I grieve still, but my heart no longer feels like a bleeding wound. 

The words that stayed with me are these four, "And walk in love...." If you're a Bible-person, you may recognize the phrase from Ephesians 5:2, an epistle written to early Christians guiding them in living their faith. (I had to look it up, a Bible scholar I am not!)

What does it mean to "walk in love"? To me, it means:

  • Doing whatever we can to heal our own hurts, and then extending our compassion and kindness to the world. 
  • Speaking our own version of truth to power, not letting ourselves be cowed or silenced.
  • Standing up for fairness and justice, for the right to be safe in our daily lives.  
  • Spreading Light in the form of loving daily actions, not engaging in the darkness of hatred and fear. 
  • Nurturing and celebrating diversity of thought and lives; appreciating that when we walk with love, we will take many different paths.
  • Sheltering and tending the "least among us," who may not have all they need to live whole, healthy lives. 
  • Embracing all of life, finding the beauty in each day, and the humanity in each heart. 

In sum, for me, it means living with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand. (I'm paraphrasing a line from a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter.)

I'm sure you can think of many more ways to walk in love through our days. There are many different ways to live a life with love, just as there are many different people in the world. That's a good thing; if we were all alike, the world would be a poorer place. If we decree that there was only one "right path," we block others from  walking their version of love. 

There is quiet but muscled power in walking in love through life, in speaking up for what we believe in. In tending to heart and spirit in order to use their strength for healing and action and restoration of this battered world.

Together, we can walk in love. We must. 

A flock of American White Pelicans migrating toward safe water in the snowstorm, each bird's huge wings drafting the one just behind it, and the leaders rotating to the quieter air behind the flock when they tire. It's the pelican version of walking in love, a community nurturing itself because each member matters. 

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Me Too: Why #metoo matters

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When I first saw "Me too" and the #metoo hashtag appearing on Facebook and Twitter, I had mixed feelings. I was sad to see how many women I know  have experienced sexual harassment or sexual abuse in their lives. Too many of us, but then, even one would be too many. 

I was proud of us for being willing to speak out and speak up. And proud of so many men speaking up in support too. 

I wondered if it would do any good. Because it feels like we're going backwards as a society and culture.  

The more I saw though, the more I thought, this is right. We have to be willing to talk before anything will change. We have to admit what we have tried to ignore or suppress because we are ashamed or embarrassed or threatened or we think it's all in the past, so why bother... 

We have to bring sexual harassment and abuse into the open before it matters. And that's what both the hastag, and the original Me Too movement begun by Tarana Burke, are about. Empowerment.

For Burke, a strong and saavy African-American activist, who began the original Me Too movement in 2006 as a way to help survivors of sexual abuse from marginalized communities, "Me Too" is not just about speaking up and gaining empathy from others. It's about what comes next: the effort needed to heal, to bring opportunity to those who feel rejected, broken. That will take more than a hashtag. There is real work to be done. 

So yes, Me too. I've been sexually harassed many times in my life. I've been sexually abused too, by a man who believed he had the legal right, even when I said, "No." And fought. And said "No" again and again. He won, but he lost me. I left him. And more recently by another man who was a good friend of my late husband and tried to take advantage of the grieving widow he assured himself who needed his "comfort." 

The most enduring episodes, I've recently realized, came when I was a young field scientist working for the US Forest Service. The subtle harassment like making sure I knew I was just a token, hired only because I was a "girl" and the Forest Service had a quota of "girls" to fill so they would meet "diversity targets." (When a young middle-class white woman is hired to add "diversity," it's a pretty sad situation.)

Me as a Forest Service plant ecologist, out in the field, in about 1981. 

The less-than-subtle stuff like one of my colleagues letting me know during a long drive in a Forest Service pickup where it was just the two of us, he at the wheel, of course, on the way to a conference that he could show me "some good times." "And mentor you on your way up in the ranks." (He was married, with several kids, and I was still a seasonal employee, working toward a permanent job.) I rode back with a different colleague.

The time another colleague, also male, because all of my fieldwork colleagues were male then, took me aside for some career advice, which included "blending in more in terms of your looks" and "not socializing with 'the girls'," the highly trained Personnel and Purchasing officers for the Forest, plus the rest of the office staff. 

I did get my permanent job without the help of my married-with-children colleague, and I didn't quit socializing with "the girls." But I did blend in. I wore my waist length red hair up in a bun, or hid it under a ball-cap, as in the photo above. I wore baggy jeans and chamois shirts in winter, long-sleeved tee-shirts and baggy chinos in summer. I deliberately downplayed my femininity, which wasn't all that hard for skinny, freckled me.

And when I got divorced from my first husband, also a colleague, and the Forest Supervisor, a very nice man, but not exactly enlightened, told me that he was sorry, but he couldn't keep both of us. "You'll marry again," he said, his face kind, "and your husband will support you. But [my ex] has to support himself." 

I was speechless for a moment (something that will surprise anyone who knows me well). And then I resigned. It was the early 1980s, and I didn't know what sexual harassment was. I also knew I was broke from the divorce and had no power. 

In the end, I didn't just leave the Forest Service, I left science, too. I went back to graduate school, turned to writing as a way to heal the world, and fell in love. I married, raised a step-daughter, moved around the country with her daddy's career. Wrote 12 published books, hundreds of newspaper columns and magazine articles. Wrote and narrated a popular nature commentary on public radio in the Southwest. Won awards. Settled in southern Colorado with my love and weathered his journey through brain cancer and my mother's death the same year. 

With Molly and Richard Cabe, the focus of my life for many years, in Boulder, Colorado in about 1988 when I was writing my first book, Pieces of Light

What the #metoo hashtag showed me is not just that I'm not alone. I see now that those experiences so long ago shaped me in ways I didn't realize. Only now as a widow, "Woman Alone," as I prefer to put it, do I recognize that I used my marriage as my shield against the world. Yes, I wrote; yes, I spoke about issues that concerned me; yes, I reached readers and listeners, changed hearts and minds. 

I also hid when I chose, taking shelter behind the larger, more gregarious figure of my husband, Richard, who was a muscled 6-foot-tall and 180 pounds. We went everywhere hand in hand, so it was easy to slip into the background of his larger personality. 

It's not that I can't take care of myself alone. I may not be tall or large, but I have muscles and I am proud of them. In the course of finishing, building, and restoring three houses since he died, I have learned to use tools and design knowledge, to work with construction guys and trades-folk of all sorts. I run 3.5 miles twice a week. I work alone digging weeds in Yellowstone, my ears cocked for grizzly bears or simply amorous elk. 

Yet somehow I internalized the lesson of that long-ago sexual harassment: I was only hired to fill a quota. Because I was a "girl." That my work has no worth. I have struggled to earn a living from my writing and speaking since Richard died. 

Because, I see now, I don't speak up for myself. I take what I'm offered, which is all-too-often close to nothing. I don't believe I am worth more. 

So yes. Me too. And it is still affecting me. I can see the ways it is holding me back more clearly now. I can work on that. 

It seems to me that's what we need to do to carry #metoo onward. It's good to speak up--if we can. It's good to empathize. It's good to see that we're not alone. 

Now each us needs to find a way to take that onward. Work with an organization that helps survivors, that empowers women (and men and others who define their gender differently). Work on your own healing. Speak up and out, and help those who aren't empowered or able to speak. 

Because #metoo is really about all of us. Empowering and healing each other, and this troubled world. 

 

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Loving this World in Difficult Times

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I sometimes feel guilty because I don't comment more on politics and current affairs. Politics and current affairs are not, I remind myself, my beat, my area of expertise. The truth is, I shy away from that kind of commentary because it seems to me that the tone and tenor of public discourse leave no space for my voice.

It is all so shrill and angry and fear-mongering, all extremes and labels and I-hate-you-because-you-disagree-with-me. All sides, no middle. No time or place for thoughtfulness, for pondering and reflecting and trying to see, much less respect, other points of view. 

Thoughtfulness and respecting other points of view are critically important values for me. I am an INFJ personality type in the Myers-Briggs spectrum of understanding human personalities. The "I" is for introverted and intuitive (yes, I like people; I just need a lot of time alone to process and reflect). "F" stands is for feeling in the empathetic sense because I am sensitive to the non-verbal signals we humans give off with such abundance, and "J" because I value concrete data and the ability to think over the patterns it creates to explain the world.

(If you're curious about where you land in the personality spectrum, check out the test at 16 Personalities. It's thorough without taking too much time, and surprisingly and sometimes a bit uncomfortably informative.)

Put more succinctly, sound bites and labels and divisions are not my thing; fairness and consideration and justice are. Love is.

Look up photos of me and I'm the one smiling with my arm around someone else, or on hands and knees admiring some detail of leaf or flower or rock. I'm the one in love with this world and life, hard as that may be. 

That's me expressing two kinds of love, love for the Chihuahuan Desert  in southern New Mexico, and big "L" love for the man who has his arm around me, the late Richard Cabe. (Photo by Susan Kask. Thanks, Sue!)

My mission is loving and restoring the world, not tearing it to bits by reducing its human and wild communities to warring factions. 

I believe that our species' greatest attribute is not our big brains--those are wonderful, but can also get us in serious trouble. Nor our intellect, strength, or even our creativity. What we humans do best, I think, is love. As I wrote in one of my books:

What we do best comes not from our heads but our hearts, from an ineffable impulse that resists logic and definitions and calculation: love. Love is what connects us to the rest of the living world, the divine urging from within that guides our best steps in the dance of life.

--From The San Luis Valley: Sand Dunes and Sandhill Cranes

Loving Molly Cabe at the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco

I've been pondering lately how to best live that love in these times. Not so much in my writing, because my love for this troubled world threads through everything I write, from the haiku and photo I post each morning on social media to the columns I write for Houzz and Rocky Mountain Gardening Magazine, to my work re-imagining Bless the Birds, my memoir-in-progress. And of course my podcasts on end-of-life choices for The Conversation Project, a national effort begun by writer Ellen Goodman to encourage dialog on how we want our lives to go at the end. 

In the being. How can I, how can we keep that love flowing, and encourage it in others when the world seems to value love so little, when fear and anger seem to have so much power? 

To express love is a conscious choice that comes from within. Which means that we have to have love to express. We have to nurture our own supply by taking time every day to restore both heart and spirit. 

Here are some suggestions adapted from a list I posted on social media in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting:

* TAKE A BREAK from the news--watching violence over and over triggers more stress and grief, exhausting our ability to love. 
* BREATHE: Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, then exhale slowly and completely. Repeat a few times. 
* GO OUTSIDE. Find a quiet space, as natural as possible. Nature nurtures our empathy and ability to love.
* SIT. Let your mind empty. Listen for the wind, bird sounds, the flutter of leaves. Look for the beauty of flowers or form. Feel the sun on your skin. Let the pulse of life soothe your pulse, refill your capacity for feeling beauty, awe, and gratitude.
* CRY, SCREAM, RANT if necessary. Then find quiet again. 
* CONSCIOUSLY SPREAD LOVE and light, not fear and anger: Smile at strangers; be kind in a difficult situation; offer help to someone who is struggling; act with generosity and compassion. 

How can we practice love in a world as troubled and frightening as ours seems right now? By remembering that love is not about being perfect, either us or the world. It is about actively looking for and nurturing beauty, diversity, kindness, courage, compassion, empathy, creativity--the basic goodness of life, all lives, in the community of this planet. It is about seeking and nurturing the heart in every living being, in every moment. 

Remembering that love is always stronger than hatred. 

And deliberately adding our mite of love to the world. Every day. 

Thank you. 

It's not perfect by any means, but I love this community, this place, this life.

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Fall Reckoning

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The verb reckon, says my dictionary, means to calculate, be of the opinion of, or be sure of. It comes from the Old English (ge)recenian, meaning "to count up."

At this time of year, when summer has given way to autumn, I like to spend a little time reckoning with where I am in life. In that, I am using reckon in the old sense: to count up. As in, count up what I have achieved in the year as fall slides toward winter, toward shorter days and longer nights, my time to be more contemplative.

I am in a reckoning mood because I have spent the day preparing my yard for the end of gardening season. Cody's municipal irrigation water ceases running tomorrow, so I did the last watering today. And then emptied, rolled up, and stored my hoses for the winter. 

I also cut down my tomato "jungle," the heritage tomato plants I grew from six varieties of seeds from Renee's Garden Seeds, and took the last tomatoes still clinging to those exuberant vines into the kitchen to ripen in bowls. 

That's only part of the harvest! I grew Tangerine, Stupice, Pompeii Roma, Pandorino Grape, and Black Cherry tomatoes. All delicious and heavy-producers, despite the deer, who persist in "trimming" the vines. 

Now it's time to stop and take stock the year so far, to reckon what I've accomplished. 

The biggest thing is that with a lot of help from friends and family, I moved back to Cody, Wyoming, the home of my heart. In January. In the midst of the snowiest, most blizzardy winter in decades.

January 18th: Almost home!

Next biggest is that I've run a full-scale renovation project to bring this house back to life since then, starting with replacing house guts, those essentials that no one sees but which we depend on (boiler, hot water heater, wiring, plumbing, insulation). 

Pancho (in blue) and Lefty (the round online hot-water heater tank) moving in to replace Igor, the antique and failing boiler.

I sometimes forget how much we (my trades-folk and I) have gotten done in nine months. Here are a few before and after photos show the scope of the project. 

The living/dining room in January, looking less awful after I finished hand-scraping and refinishing floors that had suffered thirty years of neglect. 

The living/dining room now, with new windows, new light fixtures and ceiling fan, paint, new blinds, furniture, and so on... 

My bedroom the first night (a week before the moving van arrived)... 

My bedroom now, after new windows, new floor, paint, new light fixtures, etc... 

And looking in the other direction, at what was empty space, the new en-suite bathroom with soaking tub, and the new laundry center

I have hundreds of photos documenting the restoration, peeling away layers of neglect and unfortunate changes to bring this lovely mid-century modern ranch house back to life. When I look at them, I am amazed to realize the transformation we've effected.

There's more to do. There are more windows to replace, and there's one more bathroom to restore, a deck to build out back, and a new roof, along with repairing damaged soffits and fascia.

But wow! The house and I have come along way since January.

A detail of my restored kitchen, including the original beach blue oven and copper range hood, both brought back to their original look, still working after 61 years.

Next biggest thing in this reckoning is Bless the Birds, my memoir-in-progress. I started over in March, writing the story anew from the beginning. I thought I'd be finished by now. I'm not (surprise, surprise!), mostly because I keep having to put it aside to earn a living. But I am more than halfway through and eager to pick it up when I get back from a work trip to Colorado next weekend. 

The other thing that's surprised me about Bless the Birds is that this experiment in telling the story in a radical new way actually seems to be working. Stay tuned... 

Another huge thing in this reckoning is personal. I am happier than I've been since Richard, the love of my life and my husband for nearly 29 years, saw the birds that were the only major symptom of the brain tumor that eventually killed him

That happiness comes in part from being home in a place that has always lifted my spirits and made my heart sing, and in part from the community of friends here who have welcomed me so warmly. It also stems from being able to spend almost four weeks this summer in Yellowstone doing my "radical weeding" work to restore a small part of our planet, as well as from the project to restore this house and its equally neglected yard, and from my writing. 

My happiness comes despite the turmoil in the world, the hatred and division that dominate our nation's politics and public discourse. 

I am determined to shine the re-kindled light in my heart and spirit beyond my own skin. My mission in life is to restore this beautiful blue planet and nurture all who share it. Every one of us. 

That means restoring kindness and generosity of spirit. Day by day, word by word, action by action, person by person, species by species. 

We all carry our own light inside. Like love, that light increases when shared. Together, our ocean of light and love will spread. Together, we can turn the tide. 

I send the light and warmth of the flames in my restored hearth to you all. Blessings!

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Fieldwork: Turning 61 in Yellowstone

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Last week, I headed for Yellowstone National Park for my final invasive-weed-digging session of the summer. I left the day the first fall storm blasted the park, and because of snow and accidents on the mountain passes, I took the long way around, driving north to Interstate 90 at Laurel, Montana, then west to Livingston, and then south to Mammoth Hot Springs, where I'm based for my volunteer work.

Taking the long way turned what is usually a three-hour commute into five-plus hours. In howling wind and slashing rain. Still, when I got to Mammoth, I put on my rain gear, dug out my plant knife and bear spray, and headed up the Beaver Ponds Trail to check out a patch of spotted knapweed (Centuarea maculosa) I had discovered on my last trip. (There I am in the photo at the top of the post, wet, a bit cold, but happy.)

I spent a couple of hours surveying my various weeding sites, and then called it a day. 

That night, I went to sleep to rain pattering on the roof of Red's topper, a soothing sound after a long drought has filled much of the West's air with forest-fire smoke. I woke to silence, the eerie strangled whistle of a bull elk bugling his harem, and... Snow. 

Red in the snow at the Mammoth Campground before dawn.

White, wet, and cold. After boiling water on Red's tailgate and making my breakfast (organic instant oatmeal with dried cranberries and raisins), I checked the weather. The temperature was 28 degrees F; the forecast predicted positively balmy mid-forties by afternoon. I decided to let the day warm up a bit before heading out with plant knife and bear spray in hand. 

I took a short hike to survey a spot where knapweed had been reported and watched a flock of at least 200 mountain bluebirds feeding in the shortgrass grasslands (I couldn't get close enough to shoot a photo). The mass of vivid blue bluebirds fluttering as they snatched half-frozen insects out of the air looked like it was snowing chips of blue sky!

That afternoon I spent a satisfying few hours filling a 33-gallon trash bag with knapweed carcasses. The soil was so wet that the plants popped out of the ground, root and all, with leverage from my plant knife and my hands.

Spotted knapweed or Centuarea maculosa in the language of science. Don't let those pretty purple flowers fool you, this plant is a killer. 

If you don't know spotted knapweed, here's the short explanation for why someone who loves plants and biodiversity spends her precious free time volunteering to kill them: Centaurea maculosa is native to Eurasia, where it has a place in the natural communities. On this continent, the plant has no long-term beneficial relationships with pollinators, songbirds, or grazers; it takes up space without contributing substantially. Worse yet, it exudes poisons out of its roots that kill surrounding plants, allowing knapweed to push those plants out, harm the ecosystem and dominate whole areas.

I've seen places where spotted knapweed rings centuries-old, head-high big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) and gradually kills these shrubs that form the sheltering overstory for valleys and basins, much like coniferous trees provide the canopy for the mountain forests. 

I'm on a mission to help restore the shrubland and grassland communities of the northern part of Yellowstone, in particular those old-growth big sagebrush stands that are increasingly rare outside the park. The tallest big sagebrush grow where soils are deepest and most fertile, so they have long been plowed for farm fields and hay pastures. The 250 or so species that depend on big sagebrush, from pronghorn antelope and pygmy rabbits to sage-grouse and flashy black-and-white sagebrush sheepmoths suffer when these stands disappear. 

So I dig knapweed, working on my hands and knees with my trusty plant knife, speaking quietly to the sagebrush as I remove the knapweed and their killing roots from the soil. "Hang in there, Grandmothers," I say, applying leverage to the handle of my plant knife to grub out a particularly huge clump of knapweed with a foot-long root. "I'm working on restoring your soil. Don't give up yet!"

A big sagebrush taller than I am and at least several centuries old slowly being poisoned by a colony of spotted knapweed.

So my weeding days go, some sunny and warm, some chill and windy. I dig until my legs and fingers cramp, and then take time to read and think and wander favorite trails. 

Monday morning I woke in before dawn as the darkness eased, hearing a bull elk give his piercing and strangled whistle very nearby. I sat up in my sleeping bag, but there wasn't enough light yet to see where he was. About half an hour later, when I was up and dressed, and had my camp stove on Red's tailgate boiling water for my oatmeal, he began to bugle again.

Soon, there was crashing on the hillside. Half a dozen cow elk appeared, trotting down the steep slope. A few of them stopped to chow down on the chokecherry shrubs at the neighboring campsite, for all the world as if they were in a buffet line. 

Chokecherry morning buffet... 

More cows trotted down the hill. The bull wheezed and whistled, the sound coming closer. More cows ambled by, some with late calves following. 

Just as I sat on the tailgate with my cup of hot oatmeal, Mr. Stud himself appeared, all hormones with rack high, pushing the last of his two-dozen-cow harem right through my campsite. I retreated into Red's topper as he stopped a few yards away and looked around as if to say, "I'm here. Where is the party?"

 

A good way to begin my 61st birthday!

After the show and breakfast, I packed up my trash bags, plant knife, and bear spray, and went back to work digging knapweed. 

At the end of the day, I relaxed in the lounge at the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room over a shot of very good Montana micro-distillery whisky and a serving of warm huckleberry cobbler with local vanilla ice cream. 

The Dining Room and Lounge in summer, with elk lounging on the old parade ground, ogled by visitors. 

Sixty-one is a difficult milestone for me. Not because I fear being old. For one who wasn't expected to live past my twenties, each year is a blessing. I've earned these wrinkles and the silver hairs shining through the red. 

It's difficult because sixty-one is the age when Richard, the love of my life and my husband for the better part of three decades, died of brain cancer. I will be older than him soon, and forever after. As I live on, the years we spent together recede. That is hard. 

It is easier to bear the grief when I have useful work. Which is why I volunteer to dig invasive weeds in the landscape I love. And why I write. Because in this time of drawing lines between "us" and "them," of hating those who are different; in this time of global climate change, of hurricanes so powedeful we have never seen their like or the scale of their destruction before, of tragic earthquakes, doing something to heal this earth and we who share it is more important than ever. 

I believe love wins in the end. And I do love this earth and the lives who work together to make it home to us all. 

Me at 61, with one of my favorite grandmother plants. 

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Hurricanes, Climate Change, and Restoration

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If you're like me, you probably spent a lot of time in the past several weeks surfing the internet for news of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. I have friends and relatives in Houston (all were flooded out with varying severity, but all are okay) and friends in the Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands, and in Florida (all okay so far).  

Part of my obsession with the news is concern about those in harm's way, and part is the kind of horrified fascination we humans are subject to when seeing a catastrophe unfold as we watch. I grieve for the people killed and injured, and for those whose homes and lives have been devastated.

I grieve equally for the longer-term catastrophe of global climate change. For those millions of species and uncountable individuals with whom we share this planet and upon whom we depend for so much, from the oxygen we breathe to the beauty that succors our souls. These lives have also taken a huge hit from the two hurricanes: the trees in the forests on St. Barts stripped bare; the bats and lizards that once sheltered in those trees, the birds and butterflies. The fish and rays in the shallows as whole bays are sucked dry, then catastrophically flooded by passing storms. The corals, the sharks, the alligators and manatees, the mangroves whose roots buffer storm surges and shelter so many other lives... 

We can't know if global climate change is specifically responsible for this first-ever incident of two Category 4 hurricanes hitting the US mainland within a short time. (Irma was a Cat 5 when it hit the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, but had lessened to a Cat 4 when it hit Key West.) As this article in the LA Times explains, we can say that warming air temperatures and the resultant warming of oceans caused by global climate change makes stronger hurricanes more likely.

So whether or not each storm was a direct result of global climate change, two catastrophic storms coming so close together are a picture of what the future looks like: more extreme weather events, and fewer "normal" periods of stable weather. More intense rainfall and flooding in some places and longer droughts in others; more catastrophic tornadoes, winds, cyclones; more severe winter storms where I live, and warmer and drier winters elsewhere.  

And of course, more wildfires like the ones burning across the West and coloring my dawn runs (top photo) and sunsets. Whole landscapes will change as species move or die out in response to global climate change. That alone feels unbearably sad.

Forest-fire-smoke tinted sunset over Cody

Grief is paralyzing, something I know well after losing Richard to brain cancer nearly six years ago (glioblastoma, the same kind that Senator McCain is dealing with). Sometimes you just have to go with it and let the waves wash over you. But if you stay down too long, you may never surface again.

My remedy for long-term grief of that sort that could very well drown a person is to do something. Not just anything at random, something that is a direct counter to the cause of the grief. 

Writing is one of my grief therapies. Habitat restoration is the other, specifically returning healthy communities of native species to degraded land. I've restored songbird and butterfly habitat to the grounds of a coal-fired power plant, restored healthy mountain prairie on a blighted former industrial parcel, nursed a thread of urban creek that had become a waste-dump ditch back to life as a cleanser of urban runoff and feeder trout stream. 

That creek before restoration...

And after.

In the face of global climate change, restoration offers hope. It feels like something tangible I can do to heal at least my small corner of the earth. 

So I am grateful that I have this house to bring back to life, its formerly sterile lawn-and-shade-tree yard to re-wild, and that I have the opportunity to work in Yellowstone National Park as a radical weeder, helping to restore the ecosystems of the place often called America's Serengheti for its awe-inspiring wildlife, large and small. 

I'm headed back to Yellowstone later this week for one last weeding stint, and to celebrate my 61st birthday in a landscape that holds my heart. When I get home, the last set of replacement windows will be in the garage waiting their turn to make my house more energy-efficient and sustainable. (Retrofitting my house to use less energy is part of my restoration effort to combat global climate change.) A new shipment of native and heritage plants will be awaiting planting as I continue to transform lawn into habitat that welcomes songbirds and pollinators. 

Purple sage (Salvia pachyphilla), beloved of butterflies, thriving in the rock garden that replaces part of my front lawn.

And I will return to work writing the new version of Bless the Birds, my memoir celebrating love and life. 

Yesterday I took a break from writing and obsessing over hurricane news, and began laying out the borders for a sitting patio and paths in the part of my back yard that won't be disturbed by the giant forklift when the largest window unit is installed later this month.

(The bricks are a gift of my neighbor, who has a spare stack of about 200. He saw me lining paths in my front yard with bricks and offered his to me. His yard is a tidy lawn and shade trees, his politics are the opposite of mine; no matter, we trade building materials, cookies, and snow shoveling in winter.)

Next summer, I'll sit on that patio in the shade of the big spruce tree, and watch butterflies and native bees visit the wildflowers in the native meadow I'll plant when window-replacement is finished. 

Restoration heals. Lives, buildings, whole landscapes. Our bodies, spirits, our communities, our wildlands. Our planet. 

We can all find ways to help restore what is broken, to bridge divides, to heal the losses. We must. Working together, we can accomplish miracles. 

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Memoir Revision: Starting Over With a New Perspective

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Back in March, I started two new projects: my running practice, and a total rewrite of Bless the Birds, the memoir I've been working on sporadically for the last, well, six years. 

The running's going well. I've settled into a routine of running two mornings a week, and I'm up to 3.7 miles now. I'm not fast, but I am running regularly, and that's what counts. 

I love running for the righteous feeling when I've finished. And for the excuse to be outside in sagebrush country, the landscapes of my heart. It's a joy to see the occasional coyote (they are much faster than I am!), listen to sparrows call, watch swallows dip and swoop after insects, and see the sagebrush and bunchgrasses and wildflowers go through the cycle of the seasons. 

(The photo at the top of the post is from my running route last week, with an forest-fire-smoke orange dawn lighting Rattlesnake--on the right--and Spirit--on the left--mountains, and the Shoshone River flowing in its shallow canyon below me.)

In May, that same view was greener and dotted with spring wildflowers.

The memoir work is going well too, if much more slowly than I had hoped. Which isn't surprising, really, since I am starting over from the beginning, writing the story anew from a completely different narrative framework.

The original versions (all eight or so of them!) were much more chronological, and that meant it was too easy for me to get mired in the details of brain cancer and not focus on the point of the story. Which is living the end of your life with love. Heck, living your whole life with love, whatever comes. 

Bless the Birds is about being mindful in choosing how to live. Not just letting life roll you over, no matter how hard things become.

For Richard and me, that meant deliberately choosing to live with love and kindness and compassion and wonder and joy. Even as brain cancer took over our days.

Richard Cabe (1950-2011) on the way home from his monthly check-in with his oncologist; by then, he had survived two brain surgeries and a course of radiation, plus a course of chemo. 

Even as Richard's tumor- and surgery-impaired brain challenged his ability to do the things he had always done so easily. Even when we know he wouldn't survive. Especially then. 

This new version of the story begins with "then," when we knew he was terminal, knew he was headed for hospice care when we got home. It opens with the first night of The Big Trip, our belated honeymoon trip, a 4,000-mile drive to and down the Pacific Coast from Washington to southern California. A trip we took because we wanted to enjoy our time while we could. 

Those three weeks on the road were more of an adventure than we bargained for, and two months from the day we got home, he died. But the trip speaks for the way we lived the journey with his brain cancer: we lived.

Richard savoring a meal at Redfish Restaurant in Port Orford, Oregon. (Thank you Ann Vileisis and Tim Palmer, for the visit and the recommendation to eat at Redfish!)

We didn't waste our time regretting. Or not much time anyway. We did our best to savor as many of the moments as we could. Laughed, loved, fought, ate, drank, celebrated, and grieved. And walked hand-in-hand right up to the day he "woke up dead," as he liked to phrase what he imagined happening. 

This entirely new version of Bless the Birds is a story within a story, framed by the days of that Big Trip, with flashbacks to show who we were and how we got to that journey with Richard's right brain deteriorating to the point that he ws losing his vision and his balance; to the point that his bladder (as he put it) didn't always talk to his brain, and his ability read a map or dial a cellphone was gone. His sense of humor was intact, as was his ability to think and reason. He was as incisive and insightful as ever, even if he had to sleep a lot of the time. 

Writing the story this way reminds me of E.L. Doctorow's quote about writing fiction (from the Paris Review, "Writers at Work: Interviews"):

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

When I have time to work on the story, that's exactly how it feels: like driving at night in the fog. I'm in Chapter 11, not quite halfway through with the first draft of this new version, and I can't see very far ahead, but I trust I can make the whole trip groping along by the light of my intuition's headlights. I trust that the story will work.

It's slow, and it's painful to relive that time, but it feels right. And as with any good writing, I'm learning new things along the way about myself, about Richard, and about our journey together.

Here's how the new story begins:

Day One, Odometer Reading 182 miles:

Richard opened his eyes as I slowed the car for the turn to the gravel ranch road. I rolled down the windows, letting in the rich smell of new-mown hay along with a distinctive, throbbing call: “Khrrr, khrrrr, khrrr!” 

“Sandhill cranes!” A smile creased Richard’s tanned face. He reached for my hand as the cranes called again. “I’m a lucky guy.” 

Except for the terminal brain cancer, I thought. 

I swiped at tears with the hand that should have been holding the steering wheel, and then drove on toward the ranch headquarters, a cluster of white-painted buildings. I parked in our usual spot the shade of the spruce tree by the bunkhouse and turned to Richard. “I’m going to haul our stuff upstairs.” 

“I can help.” He pulled his six-foot length slowly out of the car, and then reached behind the seat for his briefcase. I grabbed our duffel, the box with his medications, my briefcase, and his pillow. We walked across the lawn and into the ranch house. As I turned to go up the stairs to the bedrooms, Richard stopped. “You go first,” he said. Uh oh.

“Richard can manage the stairs, can’t he?” Betsy, the facilities manager at Carpenter Ranch had asked when I called about our stay. I relayed the question.

“Of course.” His voice carried the confidence of 61 years of inhabiting a strong and appealingly male form. The voice of a man who could free-climb a cliff, sculpt a one-ton boulder, or juggle three balls while balancing on one leg. A man who once would have bounded up the narrow flight of steps at the ranch house, carrying our mound of gear because he could. 

This Richard froze at the bottom, his right leg lifted, unable to move upward. I stopped at the top of the stairs, arms loaded, watching with a stomach-churning mix of horror and fascination, compelled to witness the debilitating effects of the brain-tumor I could not stop. Finally, he took the steps slowly, one at a time like an old man, gripping the handrail.

I showed him the bathroom down the hall, and then he stretched out on the bed and fell asleep.

On I go, feeling my way. I guess that's pretty much how we live life. We can't really see ahead (although we think we can). We do our best with what we can discern, and trust that our best will take us to where we need to go, safely and without harm to anyone. And that the trip is worthwhile. 

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Bathroom Renovation, Eclipse Week, Family

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This was a crazy week, as befits a week that includes a total eclipse of the sun passing across central Wyoming (the exact center of the zone of totality was just about two hours south of where I live in Cody). I spent last Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday madly working to get the house ready for a family visit from my brother, sister-in-law, youngest niece, 89-year-old Dad, and my sister-in-law's two Italian greyhounds, Sarge and Pepper.

(The photo above is the fam atop the Beartooth Plateau, the largest alpine plateau in the lower 48 states, on Wednesday morning. From left to right: Alice, my niece, holding Pepper; Lucy, my SIL, holding Sarge; Bill; and Dad)

In the midst of my family-visit-prep frenzy, I also had a lovely visit from Harry, Nicole, Ethan and Diedre Hansen, incredibly talented metalsmith friends from Salida. (Check out their work at Sterling & Steel.) They were on their way to a show in Bend, Oregon, and came to Wyoming for the eclipse.

Sterling & Steel candlesticks paired with "Prosthesis," a tabletop sculpture by my late love, Richard Cabe.

I had intended to take time out on Monday to drive south with Cody friends and see the eclipse. Only I woke that morning feverish and chilled, feeling very, very punk, and not up for going anywhere farther than from my bedroom at one end of the house to the kitchen at the other end to greet my contractor, Jeff, when he arrived at seven am to work on the basement bathroom.

Work that had to be finished by Tuesday evening, when the Subaru bearing the Washington crew was scheduled to arrive, since Dad would have the upstairs guest bedroom and bathroom, and Bill, Lucy, and Alice (plus Sarge and Pepper), would occupy the private and cozy family room downstairs with its own bathroom. 

Family room now... 

The family room was as ready as it was going to be, having already made the transition from ugly to comfortable over the past couple of months.  

And when I first saw it last October (the photo does not really do justice to just how ugly the room was!)

But the bathroom... Well, honestly, it was so awful that until I realized that the family visit would come in August, I had tried not to think about it. It wasn't just ugly when I bought the house, it was downright scary; only one of the fixtures worked and was actually something you'd want to use. (Not the sink, nor the shower.) And the disgusting floor and termite-nibbled walls... Ick. 

The basement bathroom when I bought the house, a room I described as one you'd want a tetanus shot before entering.

Improving the bathroom involved basically starting over within the existing shell. So I watched the shadow of the eclipse sweep across northwest Wyoming in between helping Jeff as he built a new shower in the gutted bathroom, and began laying new floor.

(I've seen a total eclipse before and it definitely put the "awe" back in awesome. Seeing the stars come out in the middle of the day, hearing the birds make nighttime sounds, and watching a 360-degree "sunrise" simply are unforgettable, one of those experiences that changes the way you understand the world.)

Bathroom post-demo, mid-renovation

As it turned out, everything took longer than either Jeff or I expected (that darned eclipse!), and it was mid-morning on Wednesday before the bathroom was finished enough to be usable. Which was actually fine because Bill et al. didn't arrive until a day later than expected: they were in eastern Oregon watching the eclipse when Dad became unresponsive. He ended up watching the total eclipse through the windows in the back of the ambulance ferrying him to the clinic in Fossil, Oregon.

(He's fine. At 89, he sometimes forgets to drink enough water and notice when his chronically low blood pressure goes into the danger zone.)

So instead of them arriving in Cody Tuesday evening in time for dinner, we rendezvoused in Red Lodge, Montana, the next morning, and took one of our planned field trips--driving the Beartooth Plateau--as a caravan on their way into Cody. 

Arctic gentians (Gentiana algida) on the Beartooth Plateau

Despite a serious haze of smoke from huge forest fires in western Montana, it was a glorious day up on the plateau. The tundra was already russet and gold with fall, but we saw arctic gentians blooming, black rosy-finches, and a small family herd of mountain goats, the latter so close that Dad, who is losing his vision to both glaucoma and macular degeneration, could see them through Bill's scope. 

Mountain goats grazing a still-green swale in the tundra atop the Beartooth Plateau (that pointy arete in the background is the "bear's tooth" for which the plateau is named). 

And when we got home, Jeff had finished enough of work on the bathroom that it looked great, so everyone was impressed. (Me included.)

The basement bathroom, much improved...

The next day we wandered downtown, toured the Buffalo Bill Center for the West (actually, we only toured two of its five museums, the Draper Museum of Natural History, which I could easily spend a whole day immersed in, plus the museum about "Buffalo Bill," the stage persona of Col. William F. Cody, and Cody's fascinating and difficult life). 

Friday morning, we split up. I drove Dad and Bill up the North Fork and into Yellowstone National Park, while Lucy and Alice and the two dogs headed south to Colorado to visit Lucy's sister TD. (Lucy and Alice wanted to go to Yellowstone too, but they had committed to being in Colorado Friday night.)

It was another gorgeous day, complete with an afternoon rainstorm which cleared out the smoke haze and opened up the distant views. I didn't take many photos--I was driving. But I enjoyed showing Dad and Bill "my" park. They have both been to Yellowstone a number of times before (I think we visited as a family for the first time when I was 8 years old and Bill ten). I took them to some favorite and lesser-known sights, and showed them the areas where I have been weeding these past two summers. 

Lake Yellowstone, an azure sheet of water-reflecting-sky, from Lake Butte Overlook. 

We saw bison and pronghorn and loons and swans and elk and all sorts of late-summer wildflowers. The traffic wasn't bad, and the rain was a true delight. 

Lewis monkeyflower (Mimulus lewisii) and fivenerve sunflower (Helianthella quinquenervis) on Mt. Washburn

On our way home, as we wound down the Clarks Fork River (one of the West's few un-dammed rivers) and up and over Dead Indian Hill, Dad said, "I understand why you wanted to move back to Cody. I can see that you're happy here."

I am. And I feel very fortunate to have been able to come home to the place that has held my heart since that first family trip to Yellowstone fifty years ago. It makes me happy to think that Dad, who was quite worried about my move, now sees the place I love through my eyes. 

The next morning, watching he and Bill watch birds at Alkali Lake just outside Cody, I realized that this likely is Dad's last trip to visit me. I'm grateful to Bill, Lucy, and Alice for bringing him, and grateful to have been able to show him my house, my town, and this beloved landscape. 

****

And on a current news note: My heart and thoughts are with southeast Texas, and to all affected by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey. Please be generous in your support: Here's a round-up of ways to help

Blessings to all, and stay safe.  

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Scraping Corn, Wandering Mind

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Sometimes you just need time to do tasks where your mind can let go and wander. 

Shantel Durham, my house-painter, made that wise comment this afternoon when she was in the floor-to-ceiling closets in my guest bedroom, painting the dingy grey walls and shelves a clean white. 

We were talking about how much I appreciate her work. Over the past six months, Shantel and her roller and brush have transformed the interior of my long-neglected house from a place so unappealing that my realtor and friends shook their heads when I declared I wanted to buy it, to a place that makes people smile when they walk in the front door. (The photo above is my light-filled and colorful office, which was a dingy cave before Shantel painted it, and her dad trimmed out the gaps in the walls and built the shelves.)

Shantel's a single mom raising an active and smart pre-schooler, and she's going to college--she graduated at the top of her class in the pre-nursing program at the local community college this spring, and is starting to study for her RN this week. So she's got plenty to do in her life. 

I said something about how grateful I was that she devotes her precious weekend time to painting for me, and she responded with that nugget of wisdom.

Her words reminded me of Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield's book, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, about how enlightenment lies in the mundane moments of our every day lives, not just those rare "aha!" moments when we feel a spiritual kick. 

Which may be why I spent today, the day before the total eclipse of 2017, which crosses central Wyoming tomorrow mid-morning, doing ordinary things.

Ordinary things like washing my sheets, shaking out my blankets, and rotating my mattress. (And yes, those lovely green walls that make my bedroom feel like a treehouse Shantel's work.)

Eclipses are extraordinary astronomical events--seeing the stars come out in daytime as the sun is eclipsed entirely by our moon is a wondrous and truly awesome experience, in the original meaning of that word, as in "full of awe."

Many spiritual traditions regard eclipses as times of great change, opportunities to focus inward, to harness the shift in the sacred, the energy of the cosmos, the beyond-words-power that moves us in ways we often do not understand, and sometimes are not even aware of until afterwards. 

For me, a day spent tending to the mundane in a mindful way is part of preparing for a shift I feel coming in my own life. I can't see what it is yet, but I can feel it in a kind of inner awareness, a listening within that I notice especially when I am engaged in tasks that allow my mind to wander, "where it will go..." as the Beatles wrote in "Fixing a Hole." ("I'm fixing a hole/ where the rain gets in/ and stops my mind from wandering/ where it will go.")

So after I tended to my bed, I scraped ears of fresh local sweet corn I bought at the Farmer's Market on Thursday, and bagged cups of kernels to put into the freezer for this winter, when having frozen corn that tastes as sweet as summer sun will be a treat.

Ears of fresh sweet corn headed for the yellow bowl, where I will scrape the kernels off the cob.

Quart bags in the freezer, giving me that satisfying feeling of having food put by for winter. 

I pitchforked up more turf in the front yard and planted the rest of the irises that I divided last weekend from a bed of rhizomes packed so tightly that they didn't even bloom this year. My digging-up-and-separating efforts yielded enough irises to cover three times the area of the existing iris bed! 

While I had my pitchfork out, I dug up more unwanted turf in the rock-garden part of the front yard and planted blanketflower seeds from my former yard in Salida to add to the clump of blanketflower I got from friends here, which is blooming like mad right now. 

A sunflower bee on the blanketflower, happily collecting pollen (you can see the orange clumps of pollen filling the "baskets" on her hind legs). 

I used to need to think I had my life planned out. Living through Richard's brain cancer, and then my mother's death and his death in the same year cured me of that impulse to try to control anything. 

So this mellower me is listening to the inner feeling of change coming, and letting myself relax into it.

Whatever is ahead, I am grateful to be here in the house and yard I am bringing back to life with the help of Shantel, her dad Jeff, and others. I am grateful to be at home in the landscapes that hold my heart, in a community of friends who have welcomed me back warmly.

This place is my refuge, my quiet center, the sanctuary that allows me to live even in these turbulent times with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand, to continue my work of restoring this glorious blue planet and celebrating its vibrant diversity of lives. 

May we all find our place of refuge and sustenance, and may we all go forth into the world with listening ears and giving hearts. It will take each of us to heal this world, working in our individual ways, bringing our unique talents, at our own pace. Thanks to you all for adding the gifts of your hands and hearts to the changes to come!

Sunrise on my running route--home

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Weeding Out Hatred and Darkness

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Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
-- Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

When hate and greed seem to dominate our world, as with yesterday's ugly and tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, it's natural to feel despair and grief, along with anger and hopelessness. What can we do, each of us, to combat what seems like an overwhelming descent into the darkness of violence and hatred? 

How can we heal this polarized nation, stem the tide of hate splitting what used to be "us" into tribes fearful of "them"? For that matter, how can we heal this earth, its climate changing so fast that whole ecosystems are breaking down, and we are losing species, in some cases before we even know them? 

I don't think there is any one answer to those questions, any one "right" way to proceed. It's up to each of us, working in our own way, to stand up for what we believe in.

To speak up and speak out. To act up, reach out, to write or march or preach or protest. To dance, sing, paint; to craft legislation, investigate crimes, argue points in legislatures, hearings, or courts. To fight fires, heal the wounded, pick up the pieces, comfort those who are scared or sick. To raise great kids, tend our elders and parents and partners. To do whatever we are called to do with love and compassion.

For all. Everyone. All lives, human and also those myriad of other lives with whom we share this extraordinary blue planet. 

Like these bees feeding on a thistle flower. 

The quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the top of the post guides my response: I aim to spread love and light in my every day actions. Because I believe that what we do speaks at least as loudly as what we say. So I treat others with kindness and respect; I extend my love to those who are difficult to love; I stand up for those who are being mistreated, speak for those who have no voice; I act with the love and light that have the power to drive out darkness and hatred.

I'm no saint. I get cranky and tired and impatient and angry. But I try to notice how I am feeling and choose to not take out my moods on others. I choose love. And kindness, a smile rather than a curse or a kick. I would rather be the one who opens a door than slams it shut in someone else's face. 

I'm not a push-over. If you think because I approach the world with a smile and kindness you can take advantage of me, think again. I stand up for myself and for others. Like the velvet-ant in the photo above (actually not an ant at all but a flightless female wasp), I have a stinger, and I will use it!

What I won't be is intentionally mean or hateful or hurtful or divisive. As I say in my morning prayer,

Make me strong. Not to overcome my brothers and sisters; to live in the Light and spread it to all I touch.

I believe that goodness has more staying power than hatred and violence. I believe that our everyday actions set a tone that others respond to. I believe in King's words: light can drive away the metaphorical darkness of racism and violence and greed; love can drive out hatred. 

Which is why I spent this past week in Yellowstone National Park, continuing my ecological restoration project, AKA digging out invasive weeds.

"Wait," you say, "I thought you were extending light and love to all. Now you are calling some lives 'weeds?' How is that consistent with living with compassion and love?" 

To me, "living in the Light" means standing up to bullies, and if need be, removing them to restore health to the community. To an ecologist, a weed is an introduced species who hasn't evolved healthy relationships, a species who doesn't contribute to the community and doesn't play well with others. A weed is a bully who, like the plants with the lovely purple flowers in the photo below, poisons other plants in order to gain a competitive advantage for itself. 

Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa), a native of Eastern Europe which exudes poisons through its roots to kill the plants around it. 

I spent the week digging spotted knapweed by hand from areas around Mammoth Hot Springs. I dug up nine 30-gallon trash bags full of mature knapweed plants (some with tap roots a foot long!), about 200 plants and 15-20 pounds per bag. That's a lot of bullies.

There's a lot more knapweed to remove, but when I go back and look at an area that I and my fellow weed-warrior volunteers have worked on, I am heartened to see the native plants recovering, to see seedlings of bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoregneria spicata), oval-leafed buckwheat (Eriogonum ovalifolium), and basin big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata) moving in to re-weave a healthy community.

As I stoop or kneel to dig and yank and bag weeds, I speak to both the weeds and the surrounding native plants, explaining what I am doing, telling them that I do this work with love and respect for their existence. That my calling is to restore this earth and celebrate its extraordinary diversity of lives. I don't know whether my words reach them, but I know that they can sense my mood. And that matters. 

I also speak to park visitors passing by, letting them know why I am crouched near the ground, dusty and sweaty, wielding a seven-inch-long plant knife. Often they thank me for the work I'm doing, which is nice, but not my point. I want them to know that we humans can be a positive force in the world, a healing force, that we can use our power for love and light. That we can each make a difference.

I want to leave this world, or at least my small corner of it, in better shape than I found it. That is my way of pushing back the darkness and hatred. 

Hundreds-of-years-old big sagebrush shrubs, the old-growth "canopy" of the lower elevations of Yellowstone, and what I work to protect. 

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